Thomas B. Slater, «Dating the Apocalypse to John», Vol. 84 (2003) 252-258
The present study re-examines the major arguments for dating the Apocalypse to John. It argues that internal evidence should be preferred over external witnesses and that the internal evidence suggests, based upon the ex eventu prophecy in Rev 17,9-11, that the book was written in 69, either late in Otho’s reign or early in Vitellius’ reign.
Dating the Apocalypse to John *
Previously I have accepted the consensus opinion that the Apocalypse to John was written during the reign of the Emperor Domitian1. Recently, however, in dialogue with colleagues, I have had cause to reconsider my earlier position. The present study will reexamine the major arguments for a Domitianic dating and one in the late 60’s soon after the death of Nero, along with some evaluative comments.
The consensus opinion takes its cue from Irenaeus that the Apocalypse was written "near the end of the reign of Domitian"2. Many modern commentators have generally accepted Irenaeus’ witness3. The major arguments are worth repeating. Some have argued that this date is correct because imperial claims to divine honors occurred more frequently during this period and created a great deal of pressure upon non-adherents to conform. In conjunction with this dating, traditionally some exegetes have argued, following Irenaeus, that Domitian initiated an empire-wide persecution of Christians.
Additionally, exegetes have argued that "Babylon" became a code name for Rome near the end of the first Christian century, as found in 1 Pet 5,13; 4 Es 3,1; Sib 5,143.159 and ApcBar(gr) 10,1-3; 11,1 and 67,7, all dated between 60 and 120 CE. Many commentators note that several of these passages refer to Rome/ Babylon as the second destroyer of Jerusalem and the second temple in 70 CE4.
"In Jewish literature, the enemy Rome is designated Edom, Kittim, and Egypt, as well as Babylon. For the most part, however, the identity with Babylon occurs after 70 CE, that is, Rome is called Babylon after she destroys Jerusalem and the Temple"5.
Still others have argued that the Nero myth in Rev 13,1-4, 18 and 17,9-11, which symbolically represent the first Roman emperors, would indicate that the Domitianic date is most probably correct, that Domitian is the second Nero, the eighth ruler. Rev 17,9-11 reads as follows: